Green your coffee? No, this doesn’t have anything to do with St. Patrick’s Day or literally making anything change to the color green. I am talking ‘green’ in the environmental way.

Americans drink an estimated 400 millions cups of coffee per day, which is equivalent to 146 billion cups of coffee per year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world.

Whether we are thinking about it or not, all that coffee drinking does have an impact on the environment and your health, from pesticide exposure to disposable cups filling our landfills. I want to share with you ways to make your coffee healthier – for you and the environment.

1.  Buy Organic, Fair Trade, Shade-Grown Coffeeruta_maya_coffee

Whew, that’s a mouthful right there! Let’s break that down:

  • Organic: Coffee is a heavily sprayed crop. To avoid the toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers that conventional coffee plants are sprayed with, it is better for your health as well as the environment to always choose organic coffee beans
  • Fair Trade: To take the coffee beans to the next level, choose Fair Trade Certified coffee.  This means the coffee farmers have been paid fairly and treated well.
  • Shade-Grown: Shade-grown coffee plants grow under a canopy of trees, thus keeping rain forest trees on coffee plantations from being cut down. Because keeping these tress preserves the habitat for many song birds, this type of coffee is also called “bird friendly”.  It is estimated that every cup of shade grown coffee preserves two square feet of rain forest. You can find a list of the additional benefits of shade-grown coffee at

We buy Ruta Maya coffee (organic and shade-grown) at Costco, where we get a 2.2 pound bag for about $15. (Oh how we love Costco!) You can also find Ruta Maya on, as well as many other types of organic coffee, fair trade coffee, and shade-grown coffee.

2.  Use Non-Bleached Filters

coffee_filtersIf you have a drip coffee maker that uses filters, use the non-bleached filters. Those bright white filters that most people use are bleached with chlorine and some of that chlorine will come off and be passed into the coffee during the brewing process. You can refresh yourself on the dangers of ingesting chlorine from my previous article on installing shower filters.

We buy the If You Care brand, but as you can see there are many brands and types (round and cone) of unbleached coffee filters on Some of those are even starting to show up in regular stores.

You can take this tip “one louder” by using a reusable (or permanent) filter. The Earth will thank you!

3. Compost the Coffee Grounds and Filter

Coffee grounds are an excellent addition to a compost pile; their high nitrogen content is needed for the soil and is a great alternative to nitrogen-rich manure, which is otherwise used. As long as the filter is made from natural fiber and is biodegradable it can be added to the compost pile as well.

For more information about composting your coffee grounds and filters, check out this article on Science Daily as well as the Gardening Channel.

Think of how many pounds of landfill waste would be saved if more coffee grounds and filters were composted instead of tossed in the garbage!

4.  Use a Non-Plastic Coffee Maker


Our awesome Chemex coffee maker

Here’s where I might lose some of you – but please hear me out.

You may have heard about the “BPA-Free” plastic items that have been popping up over the past few years, especially in baby products. Plastic containers leach chemicals into their surrounding environment. One of these chemicals, Bisphenol-A (BPA), is an endocrine-disruptor and ingesting it can cause many health issues.

Heat releases more of this toxin, hence the warning to not microwave food in plastic containers. It was this thought that caused us to seek out a non-plastic coffee maker, one where the hot water used to make coffee didn’t come in contact with any plastic. We searched and found the Chemex® coffee maker. To use it simply put a filter in the top part (we use three round filters and fold them into a cone shape), add coffee grounds, and pour in boiling water. The coffee filters to the bottom part and you can let it sit on your stove top warming. (If you have a flat top, that is. If you have coils, you need a special device called a wire grid to set on the burner.)

Yes, it may not be as “hands-off” or convenient as those plastic coffee makers that you can program to start before you even wake up, but the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something better for your health makes it a joy! Really, it doesn’t take that long to make. (Look for my video on how I make coffee – coming soon!)

They say with this design you can make strong coffee without the bitterness. Perhaps that is why home made coffee is still my favorite and everything else tastes bad (to me).

5. Use Reusable Cups or Mugs When Out and About

coffee_mugBring a reusable cup or mug from home to use for your coffee, whether sitting in a coffee shop or getting coffee to go (drive-thru or walk in a convenience store). We do this all the time; some places even offer a small discount for using your own mug. We like to use this stainless steel travel mug (pictured on left) whenever we want coffee away from home. Be sure that whatever you use is free from plastic (see tip number 4 above). Many travel mugs that look like ours have stainless steel on the outside but are actually lined with plastic on the inside.

6. Use Natural Add Ins (Or Skip Them Altogether)

Yes, here is another tip where I may lose you. Many people love adding things to their coffee to make it taste “better”. Traditional coffee add ins include something sweet (real sugar or artificial sweeteners) and something creamy (milk, cream, or powdered creamers). As I’ve previously written about, artificial sweeteners are one of the worst things you can eat. They cause MANY very serious health problems. Powdered creamers also contain ingredients that are harmful to your health.

If you like adding things to your coffee, try these substitutions to make few steps in the healthier direction:


  • Instead of artificial sweeteners, use real sugar.
  • Instead of regular real sugar, use raw organic cane sugar or raw honey.
  • Instead of any type sweetener, drink your coffee BLACK.


  • Instead of powdered creamers, use real cream or milk.
  • Instead of regular real cream or milk, use organic cream or organic milk.
  • Instead of dairy creamers, use liquid coconut creamers or coconut milk.
  • Instead of any creamers, drink your coffee BLACK.


What do you think? Are you willing to try some (or all) of these ideas to green your daily coffee? If so, which ones will you try first? Do you have any other ways you keep your coffee healthier – for you or the environment? If so, leave a comment and share!

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